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PLoS One. 2017 Aug 28;12(8):e0182932. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182932. eCollection 2017.

Identification of novel biomarkers to monitor β-cell function and enable early detection of type 2 diabetes risk.

Author information

Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Research, Janssen Research & Development, Spring House, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, Pisa, Italy.
Arbor Analytics, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.
Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.


A decline in β-cell function is a prerequisite for the development of type 2 diabetes, yet the level of β-cell function in individuals at risk of the condition is rarely measured. This is due, in part, to the fact that current methods for assessing β-cell function are inaccurate, prone to error, labor-intensive, or affected by glucose-lowering therapy. The aim of the current study was to identify novel circulating biomarkers to monitor β-cell function and to identify individuals at high risk of developing β-cell dysfunction. In a nested case-control study from the Relationship between Insulin Sensitivity and Cardiovascular disease (RISC) cohort (n = 1157), proteomics and miRNA profiling were performed on fasting plasma samples from 43 individuals who progressed to impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and 43 controls who maintained normal glucose tolerance (NGT) over three years. Groups were matched at baseline for age, gender, body mass index (BMI), insulin sensitivity (euglycemic clamp) and β-cell glucose sensitivity (mathematical modeling). Proteomic profiling was performed using the SomaLogic platform (Colorado, USA); miRNA expression was performed using a modified RT-PCR protocol (Regulus Therapeutics, California, USA). Results showed differentially expressed proteins and miRNAs including some with known links to type 2 diabetes, such as adiponectin, but also novel biomarkers and pathways. In cross sectional analysis at year 3, the top differentially expressed biomarkers in people with IGT/ reduced β-cell glucose sensitivity were adiponectin, alpha1-antitrypsin (known to regulate adiponectin levels), endocan, miR-181a, miR-342, and miR-323. At baseline, adiponectin, cathepsin D and NCAM.L1 (proteins expressed by pancreatic β-cells) were significantly lower in those that progressed to IGT. Many of the novel prognostic biomarker candidates were within the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) pathway: for example, Noggin, DLL4 and miR-181a. Further validation studies are required in additional clinical cohorts and in patients with type 2 diabetes, but these results identify novel pathways and biomarkers that may have utility in monitoring β-cell function and/ or predicting future decline, allowing more targeted efforts to prevent and intercept type 2 diabetes.

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